As Abu Dhabi’s first all-inclusive hotel, Rixos Saadiyat Island is setting standards, others are watching. The Luxe Diary checked in.
Read our review of Rixos Saadiyat Island – the all-inclusive resort with all the ‘à la carte’ feels.
Turkish hotel group Rixos has made a swift but impressive entry into the UAE hotel ecosystem. With its resorts on Palm Jumeirah and in Ras Al Khaimah it brought a fresh brand of hospitality – and in its 2018 arrival into the capital introduced something largely still a novelty in the UAE – the “ultra all-inclusive” concept.
Where the RAK resort, on lively Al Mariah Island, has something of a party reputation, Abu Dhabi’s tranquil by comparison Saadiyat Island was always going to offer a contrast.
For starters, there’s an epic feel to the arrival lobby, a grand space just on the right side of ostentatious; blending stained glass, ornate ceilings and ubiquitous marble flooring. A subtle Ottoman influence creeps into the design, which also channels art deco via occasionally dramatic furniture.
Once checked in, a reception assistant ushers you to your room – in our case a garden-facing double with a deep, furnished balcony. Those epic but cheerful design details from downstairs feed into bedrooms where curious ornaments accompany warmly coloured furnishings.
The capital’s favourite beachfront is beginning to fill up with resorts. Rixos Saadiyat Island contrasts its neighbours by taking the all-inclusive concept already successfully pioneered in RAK and non-UAE resorts and applying it to an elegant five-star resort with all the amenities and F&B you would hope for, but without the hefty final price tag.
As anyone who knows the Turkish hotel group’s Dubai properties will concur, this also comes with an element of fun. These include the hotel “skater waiters” who whizz around on in-line skates taking refreshments to guests around the main pool. And, with the all-inclusive model, you’re not having to sign a slip every time you snack or sip.
Opened last October, the Rixos model – a regular feature in European destinations – enables guests to better budget their staycation while indulging in a resort blessed with architecture that blends Arabic tradition with modern amenities to Insta-loving effect.
After being under-whelmed by the minibar fridge – the most inspiring contents arguably the soft drinks choice and tubes of Smarties – the resort’s extensive F&B assortment beckoned.
While your package includes all, you are advised to reserve a table at a la carte options to avoid disappointment; such as Japanese outlet Aja Asian & Teppanyaki, which offers a short but solid menu and a fun, if slightly brief, teppanyaki experience inside and out.
Generous, well presented food had Mermaid standing out alongside fresh decor matched with a nicely cooked range of Mediterranean seafood dishes, including stunning octopus, meats and salads.
That lobby elegance also permeates L’Olivio – delivering pasta and pizza in European-inspired ambience – while Orient handles Oriental Turkish cuisine within stylish surroundings.
People’s is a stark contrast with bright, thoroughly modern casual dining granted beach views. Beating all the above for sheer scale and instant choice is all-day dining restaurant Turquoise.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner service scours territories from Arabia to India to tender a huge array of dishes. The first sitting includes regular favourites alongside Turkish staples such as menemen – posh scrambled eggs – and spicy sausage. The Vitamin Bar offers another nutritional top-up.
The Setting on Saadiyat.
Saadiyat is known for its popularity among nesting turtles, so the resort’s lush natural beach is accessed via a wooden boardwalk that crosses these creatures’ favoured sites.
With the late summer heat at full setting numerous wave-facing loungers with umbrellas are serviced by a wooden booth stocked with cold drinks, while the main pool boasts a swim-up bar, plenty of loungers and – importantly if you have kids – food carts serving Baskin Robbins ice cream, fresh juices and pretzels.
Sensitive illumination embraces the resort come sundown, including a large courtyard beyond the lobby and Lounge Bar brought to life by live music and DJs as guests share shisha (at extra cost) in sunken seating areas.
The Final Word.
The Rixos all-inclusive concept began in Antalya, Turkey, in the early 2000s and while premium adult refreshment brands may occasionally be lacking, there’s satisfaction in not having to sign slips after each order or put the credit card through its paces again on check-out.
“What we offer is peace of mind, knowing that there won’t be any hidden costs or extra bills to settle at the end of your stay,” explains Rixos Saadiyat Island General Manager Burcak Orak. “What you set out to pay upon booking with us is what you will pay at the end of your stay, while having had no restrictions with food and beverages during that time in the resort.” As for those speedy poolside waiters, they are trained in-house, reveals the boss.
“This is new for Abu Dhabi but not for Rixos – this skater waiter/waitress programme started almost 10 years before in Rixos, Turkey,” he adds.